LETTING

Q.My tenant emailed me to say she had pest controllers in to remove mice from her kitchen. This was the first I knew of a problem. She expects me to pay. Am I liable?

A.As a general rule, if the problem was there before she moved in, then you should pay for pest control; if it was after, then it’s her responsibility. Even if it was your responsibility, she should have got your permission before she brought in the pest controller.
So assuming she’s been in the property for a while, you’re within your rights to refuse to pay the bill. That said, if she’s otherwise a good tenant you want to keep happy, you might foot it this once, while stressing to her that future expenditure should be run past you first.

Q.My tenant has asked me to fit a water meter in his one-bed flat. Do I need to do this?

A.Firstly, let’s scotch one myth. Unless you’re in Scotland, your water provider will install a meter for free. So, while there may be some hassle in getting one sorted, you certainly won’t incur any costs. That said, some properties are unsuitable and can’t have one fitted. This might be worth checking out in the first instance.

Surprisingly, only about 40 per cent of homes use a water meter, with the majority still paying a bill based on the pre-1990 rateable value of the property. This archaic system of billing means that there is no incentive to use less water and many people are paying for more water than they use or using much more than they pay for.

From your tenant’s point of view, it will probably be a saver. The chances are that small households of one or two people will save money with a meter. But you should think about it from a landlord’s perspective.

Primarily, will a water meter put off future tenants? In a one-bedroom flat like yours, it’s likely that all your tenants will save so it’s probably a money-saving selling point. But landlords of bigger properties and family homes should proceed with caution as it may put off future tenants.

James Davis is CEO of online lettings agent www.upad.co.uk. You can also follow Upad on Twitter: @avoidthevoids.